Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Demand Feeding Sucks

Disclaimer: this post was written on little sleep and during extreme stress.

We f-ed up big time last night. We had friends over for dinner and allowed the twins' schedule to fall apart. We wanted to talk and so the minute Leo or Zoe fussed, they got fed just to keep the peace. And they napped in the living room because it was easier than bringing them up to the nursery. Neither one slept more than a few minutes at a time. Today is a nightmare--they won't eat a full meal but cry continuously for more as soon as I put them down. Last night they slept, but not in as long stretches as usual.

What I've learned (well, I already knew it, but it's been reinforced) is that we've been doing so well with the twins because we've maintained discipline. Discipline means never feeding a baby just to stop its crying. They eat when we say they eat (although we take their signals into account and allow for growth spurts and such). Demand-feeding leads to snacking and short naps, which is good for nobody in the family. I don't know how people can think that an infant knows what is best for it when it comes to food and sleep. Sammy is five years old and she still falls apart every time I get lazy and allow her to manage her own food and sleep. It is the parent's job to encourage healthy eating and sleeping habits, which pretty much means consolidation of each. Sure, you let go little by little, and some kids can figure out what is best for them earlier than others, but it is pure insanity to allow a newborn infant to dictate when it eats and when it sleeps. Having two babies just makes it that much more clear. It takes discipline to act in everybody's long-range interest. It takes discipline to hear your baby crying but say to yourself, I know what he needs better than he does, and to wait.

I think the problem for first-time parents is sorting out the difference between taking the baby's signals into account and letting the baby dictate the schedule. It's a fine line, and nothing but experience can teach you the difference. With Sam, I think we fell too much towards not listening to her signals. We were afraid that any deviation would "spoil" her, which was really stupid, in retrospect. A rigid schedule is just as ridiculous as demand-feeding. But the demand-feeding advocates make me more angry than the schedulers, just as subjectivists make me angrier than intrincicists. (And D's make me angrier than M's, if you know anything about DIM.)

Right now, I'm solving the problem we created last night by letting both babies cry. Earlier this morning, I continued with the short-range method of feeding them as soon as they cried, just hoping that they'd get back on track on their own. But they never did. Now I have to suck it up, and writing this blog post is a good distraction (and running the noisy dishwasher helps too). They have clean diapers, they've been fed recently (although neither ate much), they are warm and comfortable. But they can't settle down because their rhythm is off. They will each be fed three hours after the beginning of their last feed and no sooner. In my experience, this "reboot" will fix the problem.

And now the three hours is up. THANK GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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